Doctor Who – The Fourteenth Doctor?

Written for The Doctor Who Companion, 17 September 2021

Once again, the hunt is on for the next owner of the TARDIS.

With Jodie bowing out in 2022 and taking her showrunner with her (or is that the other way around?), this time around it might very well be the most challenging choice of all.

It goes without saying (but I’m going to say it anyway) that the Chibnall era has not just split fandom down the middle but utterly fractured it. It makes the whole (unfair and unwarranted) JNT hate campaign of days of yore look like a small burp in the sorry history of Who-fandom unrest. Long-term and/or truly dedicated fans have found much to dislike about the series since Chibnall took over and I will admit that I’m one of them. The next showrunner will have a lot on her/his/their plate when it comes to deciding who to cast.

If they revert to a male actor, would that be the BBC back-tracking? If they continue with a woman in the role (and why should they not?), then give her some great stories, some tough scenes to tackle, something to really get her teeth into. Dammit, give her some good scripts!

For my money, the new Doctor needs to bring back the gravitas, the weight and burden of a 2000-year old alien. A character who emotes, who can emote, who understands and misunderstands. Who can get it wrong but who can get it so very right. We need to believe in them that they are like us but not like us, that they love us but sometimes they don’t like us. They need to be a powerhouse, a wallflower, an outspoken enigma, a quiet tsunami.

The actor needs to have the ability to convey all of this and much, much more.  They need to have a career that tells of live theatre triumphs, of ratings-busting TV shows, of award-winning performances, of a commanding presence, of a camera-loving style, of scenery-chewing appearances, of fully-rounded characterisations. They need to want, to desire, to have passion, to believe in causes and be heard when they speak. They need to be gripped by a role, to be invested in a role, to do their research, to elevate themselves far above what has come before, to keep us gripped by their performance. They need to own the room when they walk into it and to make us gasp for more (or air) when they leave.

Basically, to bring the series back to its former glory, they need to be Ben Daniels.

Ben Daniels in The Paradise, BBC

But has anyone considered the notion that there might not actually be a fourteenth Doctor? That the BBC might rest the show or even cancel it outright? After all, by the time Jodie leaves it will be 17 years since the relaunch, and 9 years away from matching the original 26-year run. And what modern shows last as long as that these days? No, I will not accept that!

Ben Daniels is the Doctor! (Please?)

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